Bringing Snacks Is Easier Than Bringing Myself

And how I’m learning to change that

A recent text exchange with a friend went something like this:

Her: “Will you make it today?”

Me: “Yes! If you’re still up for it. I know energy levels can get low on the weekend…”

H: “Yeah, everyone is tired. Maybe we’ll just shorten it?”

M: “Okay, we’ll be there as close to 3 as we can. Want me to bring something??”

H: “Nope. Just yourself. :)”

Just yourself.

Yeah.

Sometimes that’s way harder than a bag of chips.

If you are introverted, have any personal insecurities, possess any controversial opinions, ever feel socially awkward, or ever worry about what others think of you (yup, think that’s all of us), then you know what I’m talking about.

The idea of bringing myself — and nothing else — can be my worst nightmare.

(Please —just let me bring something else.)

Carrying something tangible into the home of others is like clutching a robe around my naked soul — “if you look at what is being brought in my hands, maybe you won’t notice me.”

Maybe you won’t look me up and down, puzzle out my expression, or recognize my awkwardness at stepping onto your turf.

Maybe you won’t ask me how I am, if you’re too busy unwrapping deviled eggs or angel food cake.

Maybe if I bring enough sugar, hospitality won’t sour on your tongue, later.

I need to hold onto something that I can physically hold out when I walk in the door, because I don’t feel like merely me is enough to offer you.

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

I’ve asked myself: Why do I feel this way? What mind games are being played below the surface, creating these internal tensions?

I’ve identified some of them.

A need to pay my own way

Good old American independence — I’ll pay my own way, thank you.

Debt of any kind, financial or filial, is dangerous to anyone who values freedom.

And I need to be free. Just in case I need to run away.

A genuine desire to help the host/hostess

Some of it is truly cultural.

In the United States, especially in the South, it’s customary to bring a gift for the host or hostess.

Chalk it up to traditions of community connection, when everyone was keenly aware of the need of good neighborship in order to survive.

And I need to respect that tradition, so that I can check off the list of expectations to meet, imagined or otherwise.

A doubt of my own self-worth

If I’m not careful, my true motives can cross the line from just-wanting-to-bless-a-friend into subversive apologies for taking up their food, time, or space.

Because I just can’t believe that I have a right to it.

A fear of appearing ungrateful

I feel guilty for accepting hospitality without being sure my appreciation is overt and self-evident.

Because maybe my presence, my smile, my handshake and hugs are too insufficient, too plastic, to communicate gratitude effectively.

So, let me bring you something. Just to prove my appreciation.

A fear of being transparent

Showing up as myself is risky.

Especially when I’m still trying to figure out who I even am. I was really sure, for a very long time. But now?

Transitions in life stages, shifting worldviews, and personality quirks that I’m hyper-aware of, all team up to make transparency seem like a treacherous chance to take.

Transparency is the glass ceiling we’re all still working to break through.

Photo by Rye Jessen on Unsplash

The common denominator for every single excuse is this: FEAR

Fear of being in your debt.

Fear of not measuring up to cultural standards.

Fear of taking what I don’t deserve.

Fear of appearing ungrateful.

Fear of being known.

Ultimately, it is fear of rejection.

If I am unacceptable, in one {any} of these ways, I automatically assume this will inspire rejection on your end.

It’s bewildering, and blindsiding, and utterly frightening to face.

But, somehow, it’s true.

Why is it that I strongly believe, subconsciously, that I will be rejected out-of-hand?

I have a theory, and it’s not pretty:

My own propensity to reject others causes me to assume that I will be rejected.

Who knew conversations about toting muffins to your house could dissolve into a therapy session?

Following the phrase so often recklessly torn from the text, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged,” come these compelling words:

“For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use.” Matthew 7:1–2 CSB

It’s enough to make me want to pull the curtain closed, and sew it shut, for good.

But freedom is only found in truth. So I’ll lean in, willing to learn.

When my heart is unhealthy, it holds little space for the imperfections of others. Why?

They say we hate most what we really are.

At the end of the day, your imperfection reminds me of my own.

Truly, “it’s not you. It’s me.”

I fear rejection, because I am prone to reject you, because you remind me of what I dislike most in myself.

Circular, and nonsensical, yet substantive enough to make relationships a risk.

Maybe I can’t accept your hospitality without dragging along insecurity because I cannot accept myself, broken and bent up as I am.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Yet, what good is the road of self-discovery, if there are no cures for self-diagnosed disease?

What is the answer?

Try harder? Stuff down the insecurity?

Not for this girl.

I’m finding that Grace is the cure, and it’s not the warm-fuzzies version that vaguely denotes a friendly overlooking of failure.

No.

Grace, the real-deal grace, comes across time and space to me from God.

Grace is Love, so dead-serious it painted ACCEPTED across the paper of my person, in blood-red writing.

Grace is found when I admit I’m lost in the mess of my own questions. Grace doesn’t bring answers; Grace simply gives me permission to rest without them.

Grace is accepted, not achieved, and enjoyed, not earned.

Grace is grit-dusted and curse-crusted, and it’s all I’ve got…and somehow, somehow, it’s all I need.

When I can clutch the reality of Grace to my chest, instead of a casserole dish when I walk up to your front door, I am coming to terms with what my heart needed to know:

My fear of rejection is a cry for acceptance, and Grace has already answered the call.

My anxiety and self-consciousness and insecurity can be left behind, along with the bread and jam I could have brought.

By Grace, I am beloved.

With that, I can believe that my fear is false, and my heart has space to share.

I can give love, for I am loved.

Photo by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

So next time I’m extended a hand of hospitality, I’ll seek to come open-hearted, and empty-handed.

I won’t assume I have to earn your acceptance.

I won’t project my motives onto the screen of your generosity.

I’ll choose to rest in the freedom I’ve found: the Grace of God is sufficient to heal my wounds, strengthen my weaknesses, and wipe out my fears.

Never rejected, I am eternally accepted.

Inviting pew-weary Jesus people to embrace + experience their truest identity as beloved through subversive spiritual disciplines. Hope*Writer. Creative mentor.

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